This morning, while eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal and listening to Billy Cobham’s classic album, “Spectrum”, I realized that I haven’t posted an odd meter loop in quite awhile. The whole intent of this blog is to record and write about as many musical genres as my baby soft hands can handle. I can’t just cater to the pop songwriters and dance producers… I also need to show the fusion crowd a little love as well. As the final few measures of “Red Baron” faded out, I pounded my third cup of coffee and went into the studio to lay down some tracks for those of you looking for something outside the world of 4/4.
When most people think about odd meter music, it’s typically one measure of a certain meter, repeated over and over (7/8, 5/8 etc). While this is great, and I’ve spent hours upon hours wanking some serious fusion jams in 9/8, I like to mix up odd meters alongside more straight ahead time signatures. In this case, I take a 4/4 groove and place it next to a bar of 7/8. Now, you can look at this phrasing in a lot of different ways. One could call it 15/8, or you can think about it smaller rhythmic chunks (4+4+4+3). Whatever floats your boat. These types of grooves allow the average listener to grasp on to a back beat while, at the same time, contains enough rhythmic complexity to satisfy even the most jaded of fusion musicians.
My love affair with odd meters started back when I was in high school. Sparks flew the first time I heard “The Inner Mounting Flame” by The Mahavishnu Orchestra. Billy Cobham’s drumming was the perfect combination of technique, musicality and intensity. I was fifteen years old and immediately became fascinated with learning how to play in time signatures like 7/8, 5/4 and 9/8. Suddenly, all of those INXS albums seemed so boring.
I went out and bought the subsequent Mahavishnu albums including “Birds of Fire” and “Between Nothingness and Eternity”, but it was Billy Cobham’s 1973 solo album, “Spectrum”, that ultimately made the biggest impression on me. From the album’s opening track, “Quardrant 4” (a double bass shuffle that makes the intro to “Hot for Teacher” seem like a walk in the park), to the ultra laid back closer, “Red Baron”, Spectrum is the ultimate study in fusion drumming. Billy’s playing is both both virtuosic and inspiring, while always remaining musical.
In honor of Billy, here’s my first odd meter loop (in 7/8). For this very special occasion, I decided to pull out my “big” hi hats, which are essentially a 17″ K dark crash on the top and an A Custom on the bottom. The sheer size of these cymbals tend to add some extra weight to the feel, while the hand hammered tonalities of the K keep things nice and dark. I invited Jan Hammer to come jam on some keytar but unfortunately, he was already hangin’ with Crockett and Tubs. Maybe next time?